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Bernadin asks…WHY?


Journalist/comics scribe Marc Bernadin looks at the sub-10,000 copies sales of his Wildstorm mini THE HIGHWAYMEN and wonders why it sold poorly:

Did we not spread the word adequately? I’d like to think we did. We did oodles of press, interviews with anyone who asked. Had pieces up on Wizard.com, Newsarama, CBR, Silver Bullet, IGN, and Broken Frontier. Some mainstream press, too, in EW and a couple of news syndicates, which got us into a whole host of regional papers. We did in-store signings and convention appearances, a couple of podcast interviews to boot. DC gave the first issue the better part of a page in Previews, and seeded house ads throughout the bulk of its books the month before it came out. It’s possible we could’ve done more—a cross-country tour would’ve been nice, but not in the cards…and we all can’t have Warren’s internet presence, not overnight—but we didn’t let it stumble out there without any support at all.

More intelligent musings in the link.

  1. i have nothing ntelligent to add as to why highwaymen isn’t selling. but personally this is one of my favorite books at the moment. each issue has been fun and action packed. the art and dialogue have been solid. i’d recomend it to anybody.

  2. It’s selling better than the average (read: not Fables) Vertigo book here, and better than most Image (read: not by Kirkman) comics, but that’s mostly because I like it and can recommend it.

    Perhaps a preview copy sent to each retailer would have helped?

  3. I can’t speak for everyone else, but my own reasons are pretty simple…

    1) The premise was pretty weak. A couple of guys called out of retirement to deliver cargo for a dead President may work for a standard movie plot starring Danny Glover, but you need something far bigger and bolder to grab my $2.99 per month.

    2) It wasn’t an ongoing series, so why spend $15 on five issues when you can get a 30% discount on a trade collection from Amazon.com or TalesOfWonder.com?

    3) There is an absolute glut of titles flooding the market right now and with standard comics at $2.99 each, people are looking for reasons to drop titles or skip them entirely, not add them.

  4. Given all the marketing support, you have to figure that readers didn’t connect with this one.

    The suggestion that all it takes is publicity to sell a book seems misguided. If readers don’t like it enough to recommend it, or buy extra copies to give away or to collect, it doesn’t matter how much publicity you get.

    Another way to look at it: a well-organized Internet “buzz machine” won’t, can’t force people to shell out money to pay for something – in the final analysis, the work has to speak for itself and convince a customer to carry it to the cash register and buy it (or the online equivalent).

    Assume that all the promo and marketing efforts resulted in a stream of potential customers going to stores to look at this one. Why did they choose not to buy it after hearing all that buzz about it? It may be reasonable to assume that, for those potential customers, the book in fact didn’t live up to its hype. Focus group interviewing might help determine why they didn’t buy.

    This kind of thing happens in the movie business all the time. Star cast, name director, multimillion dollar ad campaign, but the movie flops.

  5. >Perhaps a preview copy sent to each retailer would have helped?

    There was apparently a retailer incentive in place (offering full returnability for any retailer who doubled their initial orders or something like that.)

    Maybe a more straightforward free preview copy to all retailers would’ve been more effective, but it’s not as if there was no outreach to retailers on this one…

  6. I picked up an issue and while it’s all right it felt like something written with the trade in mind rather than a chaptered story. I’d rather an OGN than another mini thats been chopped up.

    Either that, or play with the “dose” idea and give us more books like Casanova and Fell. That model strips away the “waiting for the trade’ argument and gives you a solid reason to buy monthly. The 1.99 buy-in makes for a “What the hell, I’ll try it” kind of logic too.

  7. Just looking at the cover (and that’s what people for the most part see) I’d have to ask, who’s the target audience? If you’re going for young people, I’d say steer clear of stories about old guys. I’m not saying people wouldn’t like it, if they sat down and read it, but you have to know your readers in order to hook them. Also, even thought the art is first rate, I don’t see anything that makes it stand out from the rest. There are a lot of colors on that new comics wall, and they tend to turn into a muddy brown from about 8 feet away. What would make your comic jump off the shelf.
    “What drove you to do it son?”
    “People just couldn’t see me on the shelf, so I decided to end it all.”
    “But you’re made out of paper.”
    “I know, but I couldn’t find any pills.”

  8. WildStorm doesn’t have the best track record of launching comic books of late especially not related to the regular WS or ABC books — American Way, Red Menance, Winter Men, Matador have all floundered.

    I think Ex Machina and The Boys are their only breakouts in the last several years.

    And no offense to Mr. Bernadin, he has no track record in the comic book industry and no built-in, outside the comic book industry fanbase [i.e. Stephen King], technically a “no-name” writer. Artwise, it wasn’t anything spectacular.

    In film-speak, The Highwaymen was an indie movie that did indie numbers.

  9. I think the main problem is that is doesn’t have the words “Crisis” “Civil War” or “Initiative” in it.

    Marc’s comments clearly demonstrate the clear disconnect between indie comics writers and mainstream fans.

  10. “3) There is an absolute glut of titles flooding the market right now and with standard comics at $2.99 each, people are looking for reasons to drop titles or skip them entirely, not add them.”

    Bingo! And I read quite a few Vertigo titles.

  11. DC gave us a good incentive on the first issue, and we’ve nearly sold through twice my original order. Subsequent issues have sold slightly higher than what I expected. It’s got a good position on the shelf with plenty of visibility.

    Why it didn’t sell more?

    Because it didn’t feature Captain America killing the leader of our country while suffering from a broken back from beyond the grave.

  12. The “preorder without first seeing the comic” market seems pretty saturated, and competition is tough. From what I saw of the first 3 issues, the artists might try examining new panel shapes, and experiment more with composition within the panels…

  13. I used to be able to buy everything that was out there, but that was long before books came out at $2.99 a shot. Do you know how many Happy Meals/pairs of shoes/video games I could feed my kids if I was able to do that nowadays? I’m lucky if I pick up 10 books in a month nowadays. I have to be much more choosy and something like The Highwaymen is something I’d look at once it came out in trade paperback. That was the case with “Albion”, “Thunderbolt Jaxon”, “American Way” and a bunch of other stuff.

    Honestly? I would love it if Wildstorm was the DC brand that had its content on the internet first before coming out in tpb. Maybe not everything, but I betcha you’d have more people checking it out that way than thru a monthly mini-series. (Or a late one, for that matter. Not everyone has the luxury of having numbers like All-Star Batman to keep their book afloat.)

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